Pro Football Focus’ Latest Mock Draft Has Steelers Addressing O-Line Early

Trevor Penning

With less than a week to go until the annual NFL Scouting Combine, the mock drafts will be flying early and often, with every armchair draft analyst providing their two cents. With the speed dating lovefest that was rumored to have taken place at the Senior Bowl between Steelers’ brass and Liberty QB Malik Willis, it’s no wonder the majority of mocks you’ll see have already married the two. Some have the team mortgaging a boatload of firsts via trade or simply by standing pat at pick #20. It remains to be seen whether this supposed flirting is a genuine interest or another smokescreen that teams love to utilize, as to not show their true intentions.

The latest mock draft provided this morning by the folks at Pro Football Focus has the team instead opting to fortify their bottom tier offensive line and going with colossal offensive tackle Trevor Penning from the University of Northern Iowa. A three-year starter at left tackle for the Panthers, the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Penning plays with a violent and hard-nosed brand of football that would be welcomed with open arms to the Steel City. A recent Senior Bowl participant, he certainly lived up to his reputation, routinely bullying defensive linemen up through the whistle, and even some extracurricular pushing and shoving after.

It’s worth noting that Penning has gained almost 100 pounds since entering college, and it’s due to his maniacal weight room approach. After all, he’s the sole owner of the UNI school record for squats, at 625 pounds, which is all the more impressive considering his stature. “We treat him like a mythical creature,” offensive line coach Ryan Clanton said.

Penning has been training with acclaimed offensive line guru Duke Mayweather of OL Masterminds in Texas, along with several other high profile tackles in this draft, Evan Neal of Alabama and Charles Cross from Mississippi State. Penning recently said he patterns his game after Tennessee Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan, who from an almost identical size perspective, also plays with a nasty edge.

“We were watching NFL film and trying to learn how to do wide-zone and watched Taylor Lewan and Rodger Saffold a lot,” Penning told “They were mauling people. It was really fun to watch.”

Popular draft analyst Lance Zierlein also seems very high on Penning, drawing up player comparisons such as Jon Runyan (Sr.) from an attitude standpoint and Riley Reiff from a playing style perspective.

“Penning plays with a level of disgust for anyone lining up against him and seeks out violent block finishes when possible,” Zierlein said.

For an offensive line in Pittsburgh that seemed to be anything but physical last season, this selection makes a ton of sense. With promising rookie Dan Moore Jr. holding his own at left tackle, and the underwhelming play of free agent-to-be Chuks Okorafor, Penning would likely be a Day 1 starter, while also infusing some toughness into the unit.

I’ve even seen reports of scouts having higher praise for him than Spencer Brown, Penning’s ex-linemate at UNI and the Buffalo Bills’ second-round pick last year, who started 10 games for a talented Bills squad.

“Penning’s tape at Northern Iowa looks like someone’s dad subbed into a pop warner game,” says PFF’s Mike Renner.

Personally, I’d be thrilled with this pick, as it would be nice to add some violence back to the offensive line overhaul, and I’m sure Najee Harris and the next QB wouldn’t mind. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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